In a matter of a 9 days it has gone from this:
“Damien Martyn has been muted as an outside possibility as Gilchrist's preferred opening partner in next month's showpiece event but Simon Katich is in the driving seat according to Ponting.
“(Last year) he probably put a bit more pressure on himself and went into his shell a little bit,” Ponting said of Katich.
“(But) the way he played in the VB series, and a couple of times in South Africa as well, and then again in Bangladesh, I think we started to see the real Simon Katich come out.” (full text here)
“It was a very impressive innings for everyone who saw that,” Ponting said.
“We know he’s got good technique against the new ball and we also saw he can play some very aggressive strokes.
“When a Champions Trophy or even World Cup comes around, it’s important you have really good balance, and Watson at the top could give us pretty good balance.”
“Shane’s game is probably better suited to the faster bowlers and the newer ball right at the moment. If you’re a batsman in one-day cricket, you’d want to be batting in the top three or four.” (full text here)
Katich has never been an ODI opener. He certainly does not deserve an opener's berth ahead of the likes of Mathew Hayden and Phil Jaques. He lacks flair, a wide range of shots and the ability to improvise. These skills are vital if an opener is to consistently provide a dynamic and energised platform for the explosive middle order.
The entire strategy behind pairing an "anchor" with a blaster at the top of the order relies on the former acting as the rock that the latter can always rely upon to feed him the strike and to be with him through thick and thin. Katich has taken the term "rock" rather literally. He has struggled to feed his partner the strike by keeping the scoreboard ticking and in innings where the opposition have not sent him packing early, he has struggled to make use of his elongated settling-in period by playing a long, productive innings.
I am still not convinced that Shane Watson is the answer at the top of the order. Although he is slightly more aggresive than Katich, the odd match aside, he does not yet have the skill to be a regular success at the top of the order. What beats me is why would Australia commit the perennial sins of many Asian sides by play part-timers in specialist positions when they have tailor made experts sitting in the hutch?
Players are selected to win matches, not merely to provide balance to the team. Hayden or Jaques are a much better bet (for the team and spectators) than Watson or Katich. These two are the best one-day openers in Australia at present, even ahead of Adam Gilchrist. Learn from the other's mistakes and your own successes. Don't embarrass yourself by neglecting your embarrassment of riches.
(Read our previous "discussions" on Shane Watson here, here, here and here)
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